Eco-friendly paints provide green alternative
Carnival Custom Painting in Plano, Texas, works to educate clients on the pros and cons of these new products, which emit less toxins and fumes. | Photo by Eric Priddy
When Debra Hass of Chicago replaced her concrete basement floor, she hired highly rated Noble Pro Painting to cover it with an eco-friendly paint. “It’s amazing all the improved [green] products on the market,” she says.
Many painters on Angie’s List say an increasing number of homeowners, like Hass, are opting for paint with limited or zero volatile organic compounds — the toxic chemicals emitted as paint dries. Those noxious gases can damage your health and the atmosphere, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
A recent online poll of Angie’s List members found 21 percent who hired a painter in the past year chose a company that uses eco-friendly products. “It’s easy to wipe down and the colors look great,” says Hass, who first hired Noble Pro a few years ago to paint her walls with low-VOC paint.
While the EPA sets the maximum amount of VOCs allowed in latex paints at 250 grams/liter, it doesn’t regulate low-VOC paints. The paint industry, however, embraces a low-VOC standard for latex and acrylic coatings with less than 50g/L of VOC content. Paints labeled zero-VOC should contain less than 5g/L of VOCs.
Clark Pittman, owner of highly rated Carnival Custom Painting in Flower Mound, Texas, says more of his clients are seeking green painting services. “We’ve seen a marked uptick in interest in the past three years,” he says. He adds that paint choices ultimately come down to the homeowner’s objective, whether it be washability, color correctness or minimizing pollution.
In recent years, paint manufacturers have introduced many nontoxic options. Professional painters can help consumers sort through the pros and cons of new products. “At first, the quality of low-VOC paints was iffy and the price was significantly higher,” says Scott Bailey, president of highly rated SG Painting Company of Lake Norman Inc. in Troutman, N.C. “In the past five years, the price has come down significantly and the durability has gone way up.”
Still, Bailey says cost remains a barrier. Limited-VOC paints can cost $5 to $7 more per gallon — but the price difference between brands can be more than $20. “It’s a compromise between price and responsibility,” he says. “You have to weigh what’s important.”
Many providers receive a discount on paint, and will pass along savings to the consumer. “Labor is going to make the difference in cost,” says Hunter Jonakin, co-owner of highly rated Monarch Painting in St. Paul, Minn. “Ask how many coats a certain paint is going to require.”
Painters are switching to other green products as well, from water-based stains to citrus-based paint strippers, and considering the environment during cleanup. “We recycle the cans and keep the liquid paint out of landfills,” Bailey says. “All of that stuff adds up.”